Opened in December 2015 on a 8.5-hectare coconut plantation on the southern coastline of Sri Lanka, the luxury Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort has enjoyed a fast track to world fame. It was recognised twice in CondÃ© Nast Traveler Readersâ€™ Choice Awards, in 2016 and 2017, ranking within the top 15 out of an exclusive listing of 50 Best Resorts in Asia.
It is easy to see why the property is a big hit with holidaymakers, and why high-end incentive planners should take note.
RoomÂ The sprawling Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort offers 152 keys â€“ 120 guestrooms in blocks close to the main hotel building where most guest facilities are located, and 32 private pool villas strew generously across a lush and serene landscape.
I spent three nights in a garden view pool villa, number 616, which sits at the top of a slope. My immediate neighbours were a peacock and a peahen that loved to strut up and down that slope and hop on my roof. I woke up one morning to one of them screeching, something that delighted the city girl in me.
My 64m2 villa is furnished with a king bed, a daybed, a spacious work desk, and comes with a massive bathroom with a rain shower, an oval bathtub, twin vanities and a walk-in wardrobe. The pool deck offers two sun lounges.
MeetingÂ facilitiesÂ The resort only has a 12-seat boardroom in the main hotel building. But what it lacks in function rooms, it makes up with three beautiful restaurants that are flexible with full venue hire for private dining parties as well as several spaces that are perfect for crafting memorable social events.
All-day-dining Journeys serves international cuisine, and I find its Sri Lankan and Middle Eastern dishes especially good.
Beachside Verele, shaped like two cocoons, specialises in Japanese-Sri Lankan teppanyaki cuisine. The stylish interior and isolated location make Verele an attractive venue buyout option for social events.
Il Mare Italian restaurant is my favourite place to be. Sitting atop a cliff, with waves crashing into a a dramatic, rocky coastline below, the restaurant makes a delightful place for a sunset cocktail party and later an elegant dinner under the stars.
Elsewhere, there is El Vino wine cellar, the Poolside Bar and The Lobby Lounge. In terms of unique spaces, some of the options available to planners include a lawn on top of a cliff, next to the elegant Il Mare Italian restaurant; a quiet beachfront, and the spacious pool deck at the hotelâ€™s main building.
Other facilitiesÂ The resort offers a regular calendar of activities to keep guests busy and these can easily be adopted for corporate incentive and teambuilding groups.
Go on a nature walk with an in-house naturalist to see the resortâ€™s wild but friendly residents (Iâ€™ve spotted peacocks, Indian palm squirrels, a rabbit, a monitor lizard and a family of purple-faced leaf monkeys), and herb and spice gardens. Or be awed by the nimble coconut guru who, despite his advanced age, zips up a coconut tree faster than I can run for the bus. Also, Spice Spoons offers cooking demonstrations and classes that are great for small-sized groups.
Much consideration is also paid to guestsâ€™ wellness here. There are daily meditation, Hatha yoga and taichi sessions, as well as a spa with Ayurvedic treatments overseen by an in-house Ayurvedic doctor, tennis and badminton courts, a 24-hour gym and a two-deck swimming pool. These will make great additions to a corporate incentive and teambuilding programme.
ServiceÂ Villa guests can walk to and fro between the facilities, but should their legs tire, resort staff will happily zip them around in buggies. Another perk for villa guests is access to a personal butler who, at a phone call or WhatsApp text message, will deliver on their desires. My butler Isuru was so reliable, and was able to whisk me off in his buggy on an informative site inspection the moment I asked.
Overall, service is quick and of world-class, five-star standard. I must also commend Manju, for being more than just a chauffeur when he was tasked to drive me to two tourist attractions before dropping me off at the next resort on my travel itinerary. He made a few stops along the way to point out unique landmarks such as the last remaining directional sign post left behind by Sri Lankaâ€™s former Dutch masters, and to tell me about local folklores and a traditional blessing routine locals often made at a temple of god Vishnu in Dondra.